Olympia could get 23.5 inches of snow this winter, nearly 50 percent more than normal, a new study from the University of Washington predicts. And there are more days with snow predicted - 14 this winter instead of the normal nine.
Blame it on La Niña, the cooling of ocean temperatures and its affect on our weather.
The study, from the state climatologist’s office at the UW, looked at 60 years of snowfall records from four locations – Olympia, Vancouver, Bellingham International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“We’re not by any means guaranteed to get more snow than normal, but I think it tilts the odds,” said Karin Bumbaco, assistant state climatologist.
Of the four lowland locations studied, Olympia is predicted to get the most snowfall. SeaTac is predicted to get 13.4 inches, Bellingham 18.8 inches and Vancouver 5.2 inches. That represents an increase over normal snowfall for each of the cities.
Bumbaco said Olympia’s snowier outlook may be partly a result of incomplete record-keeping over the years. But she said Olympia typically gets more precipitation than other locations because it doesn’t benefit from a rain shadow from the Olympic Mountains.
The study is the latest blast from meteorologists to beware the coming winter. Though it’s not an exact science, the collective bet is on more cold, wet days.
It’s not a sure bet, though. When Olympia was deluged with more than a foot of snow over a couple of weeks in 2008, it was a neutral year, Bumbaco said. That means it wasn’t a La Niña year or an El Niño year, when temperatures are warmer and drier. Last winter was an El Niño winter.
And though mountains tend to see significantly more snow, the lowlands might not. There have been La Niña years where “we just didn’t get much snow at all,” said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
The short term is looking rainy, but there are no big weather systems on the horizon like last weekend’s, Burg said. There will be mostly cloudy skies with a chance of showers nearly every day until Sunday, he said. Beyond that, there are no guarantees.
“The short term and the long term for this whole winter could be widely different,” he said. “We could have some moments where it’s just nice and dry.”